Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) is a general term used to describe any of a variety of methods to deposit thin films by the condensation of a vaporized form of the source material onto various surfaces (e.g. onto semiconductor wafers).
The coating method involves purely physical processes, such as thermal evaporation or atomic bombardment, to generate the coating flux rather than involving a chemical reaction at the substrate surface to generate the coating material as in chemical vapour deposition.
i.e. all PVD processes incorporate a means of evaporating coating material from a solid source under a partial vacuum and then condensing it on a substrate.
The term physical vapour deposition appears originally in the 1966 book “Vapour Deposition” by CF Powell, JH Oxley and JM Blocher Jr but Michael Faraday was using PVD to deposit coatings as far back as 1838.